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Entergy (ETR) Unit Back to Service after Planned Outage

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Entergy Corporation’s (ETR - Free Report) Indian Point Unit 2 nuclear plant has returned to service after a $120 million planned refueling outage, along with bolt replacement, inspections, upgrades and maintenance, in order to ensure continued safe and reliable performance.

The plant was shut down on Mar 17, 2016, and was subsequently returned to service on Jun 16. Refueling outages conducted by the company every alternate year led to significant positive impacts on the region’s economy, especially in terms of investments and job creation.

Details of the Refueling Outage

In addition to replacing fuel, workers inspected and replaced 278 bolts on a removable liner inside the reactor. Inspections affirmed that the plates secured by these bolts were not damaged, and were structurally sound and capable of safety function during operation.

Workers also completed equipment enhancement to add another layer of safety redundancy to the plant’s cooling systems. Both inspection and replacement of bolts were successful, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission noted that there were no safety concerns. Entergy intends to conduct a similar inspection at Unit 3 early next year.

The company is committed to nuclear power generation because of multiple benefits such as its clean-burning nature, reliability, and long-term cost effectiveness. The company contributes almost two-thirds of the total clean energy generated in the U.S.

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Shut Down of Nuclear Units

In spite of all the safety standards maintained at nuclear plants, risks of potential accidents are a major concern. Insurance does not always cover all expenses related to such accidents either. In case of a major accident, the company has to bear the entire expense alone, which puts its margin under considerable pressure. Moreover, the cost of operating old plants is also very high.

In addition to the challenges in the electricity market, rising operating cost and declining revenues have prompted Entergy to cease operations of its Massachusetts-based Pilgrim plant by May 2019 following a refueling outage in the spring of 2017.

In a similar move, Exelon Corporation (EXC - Free Report) , a leading competitive power generator in the U.S., has decided to shut down its loss making Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants owing to the lack of progress on the Next Generation Energy Plan legislation, which could have helped to bring the plants back to profitability.

Other Clean Energy Initiatives at Entergy

Apart from nuclear-fired generation, Entergy operates fossil fuel and hydro power fleets as well. In Mar 2016, the company announced that its three affiliates – Entergy Arkansas, Entergy Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans – have acquired natural gas-powered Union Power Station near El Dorado, AR.

Union Power Partners has a capacity of 1,980 megawatts (“MW”). It is a highly efficient natural gas-fired generating facility comprising four combined-cycle gas-fired generating units (CCGT), each with a capacity of 495 MW.

Entergy Arkansas and Entergy New Orleans have acquired one CCGT each, while Entergy Louisiana got two CCGTs. With regulatory focus on curbing carbon emissions, this acquisition is aimed to boost Entergy’s clean energy resources and drive efficiency.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Entergy Corporation currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

A couple of better-ranked peers in the same space include Avangrid, Inc. (AGR - Free Report) and Spark Energy, Inc. (SPKE - Free Report) , both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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